June 27, 2014
rosemary published this at 6:10 am
By Gary Dek
How many times have you started writing a story or article only to stop halfway through and not finish it? If your answer is at least one, then you are like a lot of writers out there who spend their time beginning a piece of work, only to lose motivation and not finish what was started. I know I have at least a dozen half-written posts saved in the “Draft” folder of WordPress.
Creative inspiration is not the problem; staying productive and finishing what you start is. Fortunately, that can be fixed with a few strategies and conscious steps. The following steps will give you some tools to help you learn how to accomplish the task and make a habit of finishing projects before moving on to new ones.
Resist Embarking On New Endeavors
One reason why writers never finish anything is because they are constantly starting new projects before they have completed the previous ones. I like to call this “Work ADD” because I enjoy the adventure and challenge of working on new projects.
A couple years ago, I would start a new website every couple of months. I would literally design and develop a website then write and edit unique content over the course of one weekend. While you may think I “finished” the project, the most crucial part of starting any blog/site is promotion. I just didn’t do any of that, and that rendered my efforts a waste of time.
Restrain yourself from this compulsion and stay focused. When you come up with a fresh idea, jot down a few notes for reference and come back to it when you are ready to fully explore the opportunity. A few bullet points should help to jog your memory when the time comes.
Take Stock of Your Current Projects
It is time to review what on-going projects you have and determine if any of them are actually worth finishing. Maybe that editorial you started a year ago isn’t relevant anymore. Make a list of the ones you really want to keep, prioritize them in order of importance and work on them one at a time, checking off each as you go.
Don’t worry about how long it takes; after all, you’ve already invested the time to start and that’s a sunk cost. You might as well finish the project and recoup a portion of your invested time, assuming there is still value in its completion.
No matter how important that memoir seemed ten years ago, it might not have the same importance today. It may be time to let it go.
How To Assess Incomplete Projects
Divide your projects into three folders:
- Projects that evoke enthusiasm and fit with your current goals.
- Projects that you need to move on from, even if you are unsure.
- Projects that you are not actively inspired to finish now, but that you might want to revisit another time.
This doesn’t mean pile everything into categories 1 and 3. Be objective and honest with yourself. It will definitely help unclutter your mind, goals, and work area.
Pick A Project and Stick With It
Take a look at the folder containing the projects you are excited about right now. Pick one of them and do not look at another until it is done. Whether it’s a blog, freelance gig, eBook, or another obligation, this project is going to be your primary focus.
So, how do you choose which item on your to-do list deserves all your energy?
Do you start with the:
- simplest project: If you have a short story you are working on, you might want to finish it before you work on that novel.
- longest-running project: If you’ve been working on a blog for 5 years and it has the most loyal following, do you keep up the momentum?
- project you’re most invested in: If you are already a professional writer and the work you have left unfinished is guaranteed to bring in some much needed cash, it provides a better return on investment to satisfy your existing client obligations.
Have A Clear Vision of What The Finished Product Should Look Like
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many writers or online entrepreneurs dive into a project without any idea of where they are going with it. We are all guilty of this kind of “we’ll see what happens” kind of thinking, but ultimately, without a destination, your journey will take you nowhere.
Instead, make a list of what you think constitutes a finished product. For example, if you are writing a blog post, there are specific points you need to hit before you can say it is complete. This might mean:
- your article has a start, middle and end.
- your article is at least 1,000 words and proofread.
- you’ve gotten feedback from your editor, revised the post, and it is now ready for publication.
In your personal or professional life, pinpointing clear goals can ensure every little step you take brings you closer to achieving them.
Set Your Goals
You know how some people keep a “bucket list” of things they would like to do before they die? Well, you should keep a similar kind of list that consists of your business goals. For example, starting a blog could be one small goal because it’s easy – it can be achieved in an afternoon. The real goal should be to attract 10,000 visitors a month to that blog within the first year.
However, don’t set yourself up for defeat by outlining impossible goals. Deciding that you want to sell your first blog for a million dollars after a year is not realistic, especially if you are a new blogger.
Create a list of milestones with deadlines to keep yourself accountable, such as:
- writing a page a day for a month
- completing a detailed outline for your short story
- writing a short screenplay
- getting 10 posts completed before launching your blog
Pick 5 to 10 goals and put them on your calendar. Keep the list somewhere you will see it daily for inspiration.
Regardless of whether you use a free blogging site to write for therapeutic reasons, with the hopes of becoming a published author, or simply because freelance writing pays the bills and offers the flexibility to be with your kids during the day, you need to learn how to keep the momentum going and stay motivated long enough to actually bring your great ideas to fruition. Hopefully these steps will help you learn how to finish what you start.
What’s your top priority right now?